Schistosoma haematobium and S. bovis are widespread schistosome species causing human and cattle schistosomiasis, respectively, in Africa. The sympatric occurrence of these two species and their ability to infect the same Bulinus intermediate snail hosts necessitates precise methods of identification of the larval stages. A rapid diagnostic ‘mulitplex’ one-step polymerase chain reaction protocol (RD-PCR) was developed using cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COX1) mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to discriminate between S. haematobium and S. bovis. A single forward primer and two species-specific reverse primers were used to produce a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) fragment of 306 bp and 543 bp for S. bovis and S. haematobium, respectively. Serial dilutions were carried out on various lifecycle stages and species combinations to test the sensitivity and specificity of the primers. This RD-PCR proved highly sensitive, detecting a single larval stage and as little as 0.78 ng of genomic DNA (gDNA) from an adult schistosome, providing a cost-effective, rapid and robust molecular tool for high-throughput screening of S. haematobium and S. bovis populations. In areas where human and cattle schistosomiasis overlap and are transmitted in close proximity, this mitochondrial assay will be a valuable identification tool for epidemiological studies, especially when used in conjunction with other nuclear diagnostic markers.
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